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School board pushes petition plan

September 10, 2000

School board pushes petition plan



By TARA REILLY / Staff Writer


The Washington County Board of Education is backing a national push for the federal government to fully fund special education in public schools, a move that could result in an additional $4 million for the county, according to Board member Andrew Humphreys.

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The National School Boards Association, based in Alexandria, Va., organized a national petition drive that urges the government fulfill its promise to fund 40 percent of the nation's cost of special education. The federal government made a commitment under the Individuals with Disabilities Act to fund 40 percent of the costs, but has been funding only about 13 percent, Humphreys said in a letter to local PTA presidents.

"The premise is to get Congress and the president to honor their commitment," Humphreys said.

Because of the under-allocation, the county must subsidize that 13 percent to make up for the partial funding from the federal government, Humphreys said. The county's special education budget is $11.7 million.

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According to the National School Boards Association, the national cost of special education in 1999 was $42.8 billion, of which the federal government was required to fund $17.1 billion. The contribution, however, was around $4.9 billion, or $12.2 billion less than it agreed to, the NSBA said in a press release.

With the constant rising costs of special education - costs that frequently involve health-related expenditures and new technologies - backers of the petition say it's important that local governments receive the amount promised by the federal government. They also say the number of students who need special education are rising across the nation, which is also driving up costs.

The NSBA is proposing a $27 billion, 10-year plan that would increase special education funding by $2.2 billion a year, assuming a 5 percent per year increase in the cost of special education. The $27 billion would fulfill the federal government's pledge to fund 40 percent, according to the NSBA.

IDEA is a law set up to ensure that nearly six million special needs children across the nation aged 3 to 21 are provided with the appropriate resources to have the opportunity to lead productive and high-quality lives.

Local residents interested in signing the petition can contact Donna Messina, the Board of Education's community relations specialist, at 301-766-2809.

"It is extremely important that we send a clear message to our representatives that we support and expect the government to honor their promise to fund special education at the promised 40 percent level, resulting in $4 million in federal special education funding for Washington County," Humphreys said.

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